Apr 08, 2003

New OBL audiotape, CNN interview

From CNN April 8th show BLITZER: In the months leading up to the war in Iraq, there was considerable concern that U.S. action could trigger terrorist retaliation. Now there's a newly surfaced audiotape said to have been recorded by Osama bin Laden. The speaker calls for suicide attacks against U.S. and British interests and revolutions against Arab governments with ties to the United States. CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is in our Washington bureau. He's joining us now live. Peter, what do you make of this new audiotape that was discovered by the Associated Press? PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the person -- the Associated Press in Islamabad, Kathy Gannon, the bureau chief there, who's had long experience in Pakistan -- she's been the bureau chief there for 10 years -- she's reporting on this audiotape. The Associated Press, of course, being a leading news organization, I believe it is probably authentic. We've yet to hear the audiotape ourselves. However, it may well indeed be Osama bin Laden. And, clearly, if the tape is authentic, it was made some time after the war in Iraq started. BLITZER: Well, let's go through some of the quotes from this audiotape under the assumption it might be authentic. Here's one. I'll put it up on the screen: "If you started suicide attacks, you will see the fear of Americans all over the world. Those people who cannot join forces in jihad should give financial help to those mujahedeen who are fighting against U.S. aggression." Does that sound consistent with Osama bin Laden? BERGEN: Absolutely, because al Qaeda and suicide attacks are -- that's the form of attack that they have taken, whether, obviously, the U.S. Embassy attacks or 9/11. So it is very much part of their modus operandi. BLITZER: All right, let's put another one up on the screen, another quote from this audiotape, this all, of course, according to Associated Press: "The United States has attacked Iraq. And soon, he will also attack Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan. The attacks in Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be against Islamic movements there." I take it that's pretty consistent with his line for a long time. BERGEN: Yes, yes, sort of more or less. I think the one thing that is kind of puzzling there -- the United States is certainly not going to attack Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally, or Egypt, a longtime ally. In fact, we give Egypt $2 billion a year in aid. And I think it's unlikely the United States is going to attack any other country after this. But it is somewhat consistent with what he's said in the past. BLITZER: Is it likely -- here's the key question. Is it likely to generate the kind of terrorist attacks against U.S., British interest, this kind of audiotape, which I assume will have some sort of audience out there? Is there a potential for more terrorism as a result of this? BERGEN: Well, Wolf, I think it's actually rather surprising how little terrorism there has been as a result of the war in Iraq. Myself included, and other commentators, and including the U.S. government, believed that there would be quite a lot of anti-American terrorism, anti-Western {terrorism] generated by the war in Iraq. And we've actually seen a rather small amount. We've seen a suicide attack in northern Iraq that killed an Australian broadcaster and other rather small types of events, nothing on the scale of a large al Qaeda attack, either by al Qaeda itself or by affiliated groups. Despite the large protests we've seen in Pakistan and Indonesia, two countries where al Qaeda's has had some presence, that hasn't been transformed into anti-American attacks of any significance. Will this audiotape generate those kinds of attacks? Well, judging by -- these attacks haven't happened in the past three weeks. Bin Laden did release another audiotape before the beginning of this war calling for a jihad against American forces because of the impending war in Iraq. That clearly didn't have much outcome. It's quite possible that al Qaeda has been quite disrupted by the arrests of senior leaders in Pakistan. I don't think they're out of business, but I think the fact that we haven't heard from them in any significant manner since the beginning of this war in Iraq indicates severe disruption. BLITZER: We have only a few seconds left, Peter. You believe Osama bin Laden is alive; he's hiding someplace, perhaps along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but he's out there? BERGEN: U.S. investigators believe that he is in the northwest frontier of Pakistan. That makes sense. There's no indication that he's dead. This audiotape may, in fact, if it's indeed authentic, indicates that he remains alive and almost certainly, I believe, in the northwest frontier of Pakistan on its border with Afghanistan. BLITZER: Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst -- thanks very much, Peter, for all that information.